North Korea Today No. 149

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today 149th Edition June 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”

[Special Report 4] Increasingly Open and Candid Lectures on Agriculture for the Officials and the Public

In April 2008, the North Korean government issued a report nationwide on the farming conditions of the country. One official said that he received a tremendous shock when he saw the report for the first time. According to the official, although many government reports have been issued in North Korea since the founding of the country, there has been no reports as open and candid as this one. The official said that he believed the Central Department of Propaganda and Agitation (중앙선전선동부) was the agency that issued the report, and went on to say that he was able to surmise just how serious the current conditions are after reading the report. He went on to say that the report shows that

“the government already anticipated that people would die from starvation in the spring, and that this lecture was devised in order to enhance the internal congruency”.

The report contains candid and open references to the current situation’s unprecedented nature. The ‘North Korea TODAY’ will present the government report entitled “Everyone Needs to Work Together to Ensure a Good Harvest” in the next five issues.

[Special Report]
“Let us Unite in the Fighting of Farming”

Grain Prices in Mid June, Reduced Down on the same level as the end of April
Distribution of Maize Resumed in Heungnam
Pyongyang Distributing One Month Worth of Food
People With No Food Distribution, Deaths From Starvation Keeps Increasing
Rural Students Not Starving Thanks to Their Parents
Only Way to Survive is through Self-Determination
[Commentary] Let not a single life be wasted

[Special Report] “Let us Unite in the Fighting of Farming”
Farmers and officials should do your best in this year’s farming. We are the ones who have to take the initiative in the fight we are facing today. Even if the Party is helping farmers, it is useless in harvesting unless we are not doing our best. We have to cling to this fight ideologically with patriotic passion and firm determination. It is true that our farmers suffer the shortage of food and farming materials.

Particualarly during this difficult time, don’t depend on others, but do your best by following the words of our Leader that we have to survive on our own. Don’t give up, but improve the agricultural system and political enterprise. Farmers should take every step of farming seriously- even when transplanting young rice plants and Maize seedlings in pots. Every plant and seedling should be transplanted carefully with the belief that they could be farming heroes.

Let us engage in this fight as the way the Party intended. Last year, we saw that the results depended on our determination and mental strength. Every Collective Farm should take care of farming tools and machines to prevent any disruption of farming, and take care of farming cows for plowingwhen there is not enough petrol to use machinery. We should organize teams in a way that every farmer is fully engaged in farming. Don’t leave farming to people who do not know how to farm as we did last year.

Grain Prices in Mid June, Reduced Down on the same level as the end of April
Price of rice at the end of May was on the 4,500won per kilogram on the average in South Hwanghae province and while in other regions were on 4000won. However, in June the prices are gradually reducing down that on the June 10th, Heoryung, Chungjin in North Hamgyung province, Wonsan in Gangwon province,Siniju in North Pyongan, Ganggye in Jagang, Gangsuh in South Pyongan and Haeju in South Hwanghae provinces are sold dramatically reduced price ofat 2,500 -2,700 won per kilogram.

The reasons for the dramatic reduction is that there are increasing amount of imported grains. As the price of rice is because as the price of rice inflated the border smuggling trade became more active and that the Chinese government permitting to export for 100,000MT. Some of these imported grains have then been on the PDS as the food rations – working as the major factor to affect on the price of grains in the markets.

Another main factor is in the ‘word of mouth’, that the United States humanitarian food assistance is on its way and spread in the all of the markets in the major cities. Although there are some dramatic reductions of the food prices, it is still 3 times more than that of the last year’s price, which would mean that it is still out of reach for the ordinary population to access food.

In the rural area,where there are hardly any cash in the community, the people who are dying from hunger is showing steady increase.

Distribution of Maize Resumed in Heungnam
June 12th, rice and maize, and nutritious powder have been imported into the Port Heungnam, Heungnam City. The maize distribution has resumed on June 13th, but rice and nutritious powder has not been distributed yet. The distribution price is 800 won per kilogram , but the distribution covers the family members of workers. At least 19kg can be distributed to each household. People are welcoming this maize distribution since the symptoms of grass-poisoning was wide spreading out of eating only grass porridge. However, there are households who can afford the maize distribution because of the high price. Even if it is much cheaper than market price, it is still extremely expensive compared to 300-350 won per kg last year.

Pyongyang Distributing One Month Worth of Food
Pyongyang has been distributing 2kg of rice, 7kg of maize, and 5kg of long-grain rice for the food ration of late June and early July. There were many who could not work because of hunger on the outskirts of the central part of Pyongyang, but this 14kg of rations made it little easier for the people.

People With No Food Distribution, Deaths From Starvation Keeps Increasing
The Party are distributing imported food to the workers in major cities such as Pyongyang, Hamheung, and Chungjin first. There are people who can avoid starvation due to this distribution, but still there are people who can’t afford this distribution. The price of distribution is 2 times higher than that of last year. Even cities have deaths from starvation, and it is too obvious that rural areas have increasing deaths from starvation.

Rural Students Not Starving Thanks to Their Parents
In Yonjin middles school in Chungjin, students’ parents are preparing lunch boxes for students during the mobilisation for transplanting season모내기동원기간. They are taking turns, and rich parents contribute 30,000 won and poor parents contribute nominal amount. Students are waiting for luch time desperately. They eat lunch very pleasantly. However, parents are happy to see students eat lunch like that, they feel significant pressure for preparing luch boxes becuas of recent food crisis. Their economic pressure is getting bigger and bigger as they try to prepare nicer lunch for their children.

Only Way to Survive is through Self-Determination
The North Korean authorities have announced measures to tackle the problem of food shortages: first, secure farming materials; second, secure the labor force needed for farming; third, ensure all laborers and workers help farmers with their life. Today they proposed another measure as the fourth solution to food shortages, calling on farmers and laborers to take the mission of farming in their hands as if they were dealing with the War of Ideology. It reads, “We must be clearly conscious of the importance of our mission and ideologically tackle this year’s first battle of farming with heroic determination and with patriotic fervor.” This is the first time that the expressions like “heroic determination and patriotic fervor” and “ideologically tackle” have ever been used for farmers. Then what is the reason that farmers are called upon even to ideologically tackle farming from the patriotic perspective? As revealed in the next sentence, it says, “Our farm laborers are short of food, and with all farming materials like chemical fertilizers and oil in short supply, our farming is comprehensively under adverse circumstances.” The North Korean authorities are admitting the serious food shortages in the country

In this serious condition of food shortages, farmers have no choice but to exert themselves to survive. This year’s order is well contrasted with that of the 1980s when Kangyeon Iron Works encouraged farmers to do their best in farming as they cited concrete numbers of farming materials like one million and several thousand tons of fertilizer, several hundred thousand tons of oil and several thousand of tractors and so on. At that time it was said, “You are not supposed to fail as farming warriors with all these supplies from the government.” Recalling such confident encouragements based on supplies for farmers in the 80s, we cannot help feeling appalled bythis year’s claim for self-viability.

In spite of the slogan of the Self-viability, the reality that farmers are facing is so tragic and devastating. The authorities are saying, “In addition, we have to make sure that all farm laborers go to work in every possible way by reorganizing work units or sub-teams. We should also ensure that farm laborers do not entrust their job to novices and go somewhere else for other jobs.” As is cited here, farmers are surviving on grass porridge this spring, and because of extreme hunger, they cannot even move around much; in other cases they go out to mountains to pluck grass for their meals, and for this reason they cannot go to work. Unless minimal food for farmers’ survival is supplied, it seems impossible that farmers can muster up energy to work for the “Self-viability.” Farmers are earnestly hoping that the authorities will supply food as soon as possible.

[Commentary] Let not a single life be wasted
It is good news that the food distribution has begun in Pyongyang, Hamheung, and Chungjin by the Party’s effort. Since last March, the food situation has deterioriated so much and the price of rice has incredibly gone up. However, after the Party’s active import of food and smuggling through the border area in June, the food price is going stable. But the starvation continues. The decline of the food price does not make people able to buy the food yet. The price of rice, 2,700 won per kg in major cities, is still triple the price of last year. The price of corn, 2000 won per kg, which is lower than before, is still four times the price of last year. The problem exists with the poor class who can’t afford to buy rice with the current price. Emergency measures are needed to stop the starvation in rural areas.

The Party should request food aid from abroad and expand the import of food for emergency measures. During this time of emergency, they should not care about political differences, but immediately accept the offer of 50,000 MT of corn from South Korea. This 50,000 MT of corn can surely stop the starvation in Southern HwangHae. Only then,they could get more food from South Korea through two party talks. Of cours, it would be good if South Korea could give 200,000 MT of corn now as humanitarian aid. The pride can only lead more deaths by starvation in North Korea..

The food going into the country should be distributed fairly. Children, elderly peole and currently starving people should be given this food first. If the Party shows their efforts to help the less priviledged people, the international community will show trust in the Party in return.

The Lecture Material by the North Korean government includes the following sentence, “Put every effort in farming. Even when transplanting, every rice seeding and corn seeding should be handled with care.” Like this, please put every effort in saving everyone’s life.

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